Historical Overview of Africans and African Americans in Yorktown, at the Moore House, and on Battlefield Property, 1635-1867 Colonial National Historical Park, vol 1
Julie Richter and Jody Allen
In 2008, Colonial National Historical Park updated the Yorktown Long Range Interpretive Plan. At the stakeholders' workshop, the "untold" story of African Americans and slavery was identified as a priority for future interpretive programs. In order to accurately interpret this aspect of Yorktown's history, a study focusing on the African Americans who worked and lived in the area within the Yorktown unit of the park was needed. The study would focus on the primary periods of significance, from the colonial period to the establishment of the Yorktown National Cemetery, with emphasis on the primary sources associated with the park's resources. With funding from the park's Eastern National donation, historians Julie Richter and Jody Allen were selected to prepare this study. Ms. Richter is a lecturer with the Lyon G. Tyler Department of History and the National Institute of American History and Democracy at the College of William and Mary. She was the project historian for the Yorktown Archaeological Overview and Assessment and is the editor of the Enslaving Virginia Resource Book (Colonial Williamsburg, 1998). Ms. Allen is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History and the Managing Director and CoChair of the Lemon Project at the College of William and Mary. The findings of this study will be used in the development of exhibits, waysides, and formal programs conducted by park staff. Recommendations for additional research were provided by the authors. I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following Colonial National Historical Park staff members in reviewing and preparing the report for publication, Diane Depew, Catharyn Ryan, and Dave Frederick.
Historical Overview of Africans and African Americans in Yorktown, at the Moore House, and on Battlefield Property, 1635-1867 Colonial National Historical Park, vol 2
Julie Richter and Jody L. Allen
The situation for African Americans in Yorktown did not improve much during the antebellum period. The possibility of being willed, sold, or mortgaged by a slaveholder remained. William Vail is one ex.ample. Vail had over thirty slaves and mongaged some or all of them at some point. When Vail died in 1834, he owned several lots in Yorktown but gave permission in his will to sell Ambrose, Caesar, Lucy, Bob, and Tom Bailey, if necessary to pay his debts. He left his wife, Louisa, William, Alfred, Molly, Carlia, Charlotte, Alice and her three children, as well as his "man Tom," his "old woman Sue," and the future increase of the female slaves.20 The fate of Vail's slaves is not clear. Again, control of the black population, whether enslaved or free, remained the goal for whites. Free blacks were required to register their presence at the county courthouse. From a twenty first century perspective, this law appears intrusive, but in the nineteenth century, it was also a way for free blacks to protect themselves if their status ever came into question. York County's registry of free blacks provides an interesting picture of blacks in this period. The registry provided names, physical descriptions, the name of the person who freed the individual, unless born free, and often the surname of the former slave.
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